James Tyrcha transitioned 10 years ago this April, and yet for years after he lived in fear of rejection just for being transgender. Two years ago, that stoppedwhen he came out to everyone about his transition.
"I just needed to be open about my transition and be an advocate" for the transgender community, said Tyrcha, spurred to speak out by bathroom/locker room use debates for transgender and the hoard of trans-bullying and physical attacks, particularly against trans women.
Flash-forward to the present, and Tyrcha is now an award-winning trans male.
Tyrcha, 39who grew up in suburban Minooka, now lives in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and works at Crew Bar & Grill and Jackhammerwas the winner of the first Mr. Leather 64Ten contest, held in mid-March at Jackhammer ( 2015 Mr. Leather64Ten Michael Pacas was appointed ). Leather-goods retailer Leather64Ten hosted a slew of weekend events around the contest for Chicago's leather community. This was the first contest Tyrcha ever entered, as one of five competitors.
"I was thrilled, flying high. The experience was like no other," said Tyrcha, the founder of the website TransMaleChicago.com . "Being on stage was absolutely overwhelming, an experience that created lifelong companionship, brotherhood.
"It was an unbelievable bond created between us competitors."
Tyrcha admitted he was reluctant to enter the contest, worried about his physique and how it'd compare with/against his opponents.
He said he won the title "because of my passion to change the community and make a difference in the worldand that's what being a title-holder is all about."
Tyrcha was emotional when asked about the title. "For me, acceptance is the most important thing in the worldand the future of our community relies on acceptance, 100 percent," he said. "Without acceptance, our community cannot grow and change; it will [just] stay stagnant forever."
Tyrcha's title earned him entry into the IML Contest this May in Chicago, along with more than $5,000 in prizes. And he is confident about his chances to shine at IML, where he will battle among 50 contestants. His IML goal is simple: "To win," he said without hesitation. "I want to represent our community in ways that are unimaginable."
Tyrcha said the 64TEN title has skyrocketed his social-media status. Within the first 72 hours after winning, he had more than 500 Facebook friend requests from all over the world, including Australia, Italy, Germany and beyond. "The fact that I'm a trans male doesn't matter to them. What matters is I'm representing our community and making a changecreating dialogue for acceptance," he said.
Tyrcha said both Crew and Jackhammer have been "very supportive" of his transition.